Producers can use genetic selection to significantly improve the consistency and eating quality of beef, but first they need to know which genetic lines produce beef with desirable characteristics such as tenderness.

The Iowa Beef Tenderness and Carcass Evaluation Project, which began in 1999, will help Iowa producers select for palatability. "Basically, the Iowa Beef Tenderness Project seeks to identify sires that produce calves with highly desirable carcass traits, such as tenderness," says Daryl Strohbehn, Iowa State University Extension beef specialist with the Iowa Beef Center and coordinator of the project. "Prior to the start of this project, Iowa producers did not have the opportunity to do a genetic evaluation of this kind on their own cattle."

Producers who want to participate in the project enter selected sire groups of calves in the late fall. The animals are fed at a participating Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity feedlot and harvested when they reach market weight in the spring. The Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity, based in southwest Iowa, is a cooperator for the project.

The 2001 test group was composed of 145 Angus crossbred and Hereford steers. The animals were delivered to SMB Farms (Brian and Sherwood Bentley) of Macedonia, Iowa, on Dec. 6, 2000. Nineteen sires owned by eight different producers were represented.

After a 34-day warm-up period, the official test began. All animals received the same implant and are fed the same high quality ration of corn, ground hay and silage with a protein supplement.
Preliminary results show a 2.69 pound average daily gain on test and 31 percent had reached market weight as of April 24. These steers were harvested May 1 at 1,133 pounds.

"Our gains were off about 18 percent from one year ago," Strohbehn says. "This year's harsh winter was very hard on performance."

The 2000 project registered a 3.29 ADG on test with 63 percent of the animals ready to harvest on May 1. All of the cattle will be harvested at the IBP packing plant at Denison, Iowa. A section of the rib of each steer will be taken to the Iowa State University Meats Lab, where a one-inch ribeye steak will be deboned and trimmed of fat, cryovac wrapped and aged for 14 days.

At the conclusion of the aging period, all of the ribeye samples will be frozen until the last animals are harvested. The steaks are thawed and cooked to the same degree of doneness.
Six core samples are taken from each steak and tested using the Warner-Bratzler shear procedure. This procedure uses graduating amounts of force to cut meat, simulating how much force it might take a human jaw to perform the same task.

The results of the 2001 test will be made available in August. "This project will help Iowa beef producers improve their knowledge of the end product traits of their animals and be more competitive in the marketplace," Strohbehn says. "Eventually, this can lead to the streamlined production of high quality beef that better meet consumer demands."

For more information about the Iowa Beef Tenderness and Carcass Evaluation Project, please call the Iowa Beef Center at (515) 294-BEEF.